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Pienaar desperate for Euro spot
Published : 03 Mar 2013 13:52:00
Steven Pienaar would welcome European football at Goodison Park next season - and admits the FA Cup provides Everton's best hope of getting it. The Toffees' hopes of claiming a place in the Champions League took a knock in February but they still have an outside chance of reaching fourth spot in the Premier League. Even if they do not make it into the elite competition, they should be strong contenders to bring continental football back to Goodison Park via the Europa League, through league position or the FA Cup. Everton, sixth, boosted their league prospects with a 3-1 win over struggling Reading on Saturday and are now looking forward to a cup quarter-final against Wigan next weekend. Pienaar, who scored a stunning second goal as the Royals were overcome at Goodison, said: "Sometimes you have to go through the back door, so there is a little less pressure on us now. "We will see how the other teams do and hopefully we can sneak in. "I think it is fairly good to play in European competitions. After the Premier League there are only two bigger cups - the Europa League and the Champions League. "All the players want to play in it and it is important for the club to get European football. "We will just see. The cup is the shortest route to European football. "Next week we are also at Goodison so hopefully this can be the place that gives us the passport to European football." Everton have not played in Europe since the 2009-10 season and Pienaar knows the fans would also enjoy the experience, even if the travelling might not particularly appeal to him. He said: "I think it is important for the supporters as well - they enjoy going away. I'd rather stay at home with the family!" Everton are amid a run of five consecutive home games, the third of which will be Wigan's visit. Victory over the Latics would secure a return to Wembley, where Everton were beaten by neighbours Liverpool in last season's FA Cup semi-finals, but Pienaar is not thinking that far ahead yet. The 30-year-old said: "We don't have to talk about it now. The most important thing is Wigan and it is not going to be an easy hurdle to go past. "That is important and at the final whistle maybe we can talk about it." Everton will at least go into the game in positive mood after the disappointment of last week's late capitulation at Norwich. Pienaar said: "It does give us a lot of confidence but the FA Cup is going to be a totally different game. "We all know it is not the same as the league. We are playing against good opposition, so it is going to be hard. With the 12th man behind us hopefully we can go all the way." Everton were deserved victors over the Royals although the game was evenly contested until the influential Marouane Fellaini headed them ahead after 43 minutes. Pienaar doubled the advantage with a long-range strike just before the hour and Kevin Mirallas made victory certain with a neat finish. Reading, who hit the woodwork early on through Adam Le Fondre, battled on and Hal Robson-Kanu grabbed a consolation. The only downside for Everton was the loss of England defender Phil Jagielka with a badly gashed ankle, which later required surgery, after a clumsy tackle from Le Fondre in the opening minutes. Defeat left Reading in the bottom three although results elsewhere did not significantly worsen their position. They now face relegation rivals Aston Villa in a critical game at the Madejski Stadium next week before tough away trips to Manchester United and Arsenal. Manager Brian McDermott remains positive and sees last season's late charge to promotion as a good omen. McDermott said: "I just hope our fans can stick with us because we might do it, you just never know. "Last season we were written off pretty early. We've been written off before and we'll probably be written off again. "We need a real vibrant atmosphere next week and we need to make sure we give the fans something early in the game, and they can really get behind the team. "I thought we played some good football on the front foot at Everton, which is never easy. "We are going to need our fans next week and we are hopeful we will get a good following and everyone sticks by us."